First time director Samuel Van Grinsven’s debut feature Sequin in a Blue Room is a gay hook up thriller that aims to tell a queer coming of age story through the lens of a digital age of communication, largely unique to the latest generation of gay men. Increasingly, social media and sex go hand in hand and this combination is now a common feature of queer young people exploring their sexuality.
Through the fictional gay hook up app anon, Sequin in a Blue Room paints an incredibly accurate portrayal of gay hook up culture. It demonstrates a clear understanding of the apps gay men use, showcasing the fun and freedom they can provide whilst also highlighting the often exhausting procedure that comes with them, namely the unfulfilling sequence of chat, fuck, block. This is shown through Sequin, the titular teenage user of this app. He thrives off the no strings attached sexual encounters that the anon app offers him but after an anonymous group sex party, he becomes desperate to reconnect with a man he met there.
This group sex party is what the Blue Room of the title refers to and it brings to light gay hook up culture at some of its most promiscuous, being reflective of the real life sex parties which are readily available on apps such as Grindr and online chat rooms. This sequence is a glorious contradiction – being a beautiful, yet grimy, sex fantasy. The neon blue visuals combined with the electric score, slow motion and lack of dialogue make these scenes feel like a queer fever dream, immeasurably pleasurable, but also somewhat terrifying. This confusing clash of emotions is an excellent representation of what it’s like to navigate through these gay hook up apps as a queer young person and Sequin in a Blue Room goes on to explore the more sinister side of them with greater focus.
The film use theses darker elements to bridge the gap between the coming-of-age and thriller genres, making the separation between no-strings-attached sexual fantasy and the reality of everyday life smaller by the minute. We witness how users can manipulate and abuse others to get what they want, showcasing the very real dangers that shouldn’t be ignored when using these apps. The utilisation of the anon app and its features is done well here and helps to increase the tension of the film’s thriller elements. The distance function, as well as the anonymous aspects of the app, constantly lean into this side of the narrative. The way it’s brought to life – displayed adjacent to the user, rather than just on a phone screen – helps to give a fuller picture of what’s going on for all the characters involved.
Newcomer Conor Leach impresses in the leading role, brilliantly treading the fine line of youthful confidence and immaturity with much skill. Whilst not all of his character’s actions are commendable, his performance always keeps viewers on board with his narrative and allows for relatable and empathic reactions from the audience to flow freely. Gay viewers will, without a doubt, be able to connect to his performance and his character’s immersion in this app, a largely unavoidable aspect of queer culture in the 21st century. The homophobia and more vulnerable position in society that queer young people are faced with, forces many online into these often secret and private spaces. Everyone has good and bad experiences and Sequin in a Blue Room depicts this with much insight, bringing this anonymous arena of hook ups firmly into the light.
The film is careful not to come for these apps and their users in a wholly condemning way though, providing a balanced look at the positives and negatives they offer. In addition to this, the presentation of older gay men isn’t the most flattering, however Sequin in a Blue Room makes definite space to showcase the more positive queer role models that the younger generation have to look up to for guidance and protection too. The insights demonstrated in this well-rounded approach to this subject matter shows the nuances of the queer talent behind the camera, further proving why having gay voices tell gay stories matters so much.
Ultimately, Sequin in a Blue Room is an erotic thriller with a coming-of-age story at its heart and sharing this narrative offers a precise commentary on gay hook up culture and the apps men use to participate in this. Grinsven is accurate in his representation and brings this story for and about the Grindr generation to the screen with results that will be relatable for many. Whilst it is a successful and compelling blend of two genres, it never quite excels in either one in a way that will make a notable impact on the legacy of either. However, its depiction of queer culture is startling in its accuracy, proving to be expertly tuned-in to the shared experience of one specific generation and subsequently offering one of the most modern, relevant and contemporary coming-of-age films in recent memory.